A former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hammad Bello Ahmed has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately appoint a ministerial committee to carry out a comprehensive audit of abandoned containers at the Nigerian Seaports to forestall a national catastrophe as was experienced recently at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon. Mallam Ahmed who spoke Exclusively to Shipping World magazine on Monday said as a former helmsman of the Nigeria Customs Service, he has on good authority that some of the containers have been abandoned for upwards of ten years by their consignees. “We must not fold our hands and wait until the calamity in the magnitude of what happened in Lebanon happens before we act”, the former Customs Chief cautioned.
Mallam Ahmad was appointed Comptroller General of Customs by late President Umaru Yaradua on June 2, 2008. A visibly worried Ahmed told Shipping World that our failure to invoke our extant laws as prescribed by the Customs And Excise Management Act, CEMA, was responsible for this unhealthy developmental. He said CEMA prescribes a moratorium of 28 days at the Ports after the which Customs authorities have the mandate to take possession of such a consignment. The former Customs Chief is worried that most of these abandoned cargoes must have faced very harsh weather conditions and may pose very serious health problems for port users and the local communities. He has therefore called on President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to avoid a looming national disaster.
” With the experience of what happened in Beirut where over 150 deaths were reported and hundreds maimed for life including properties worth billions of dollars, it would be foolhardy for us not to be proactive. He continued, ” Don’t forget that the ports of Apapa and Tin can alone account for over 65 percent of inward bound traffic into Nigeria. God forbid, but if such a disaster occurs for instance at the Lagos Ports Complex, you can imagine the consequences of such a development on our national economy, especially with most of our tank farms located in this axis, not to talk of industries that would be shut down. Have we also looked at the stretch of residential buildings located between Apapa, Tin can and Kirikiri town? We must act now by carrying out an immediate audit of all such abandoned containers in all our Seaports”, he warned .